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Shakespeare Sonnet 136

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 136

In sonnets 135 and 136, the speaker became intoxicated with punning his pen name, "Will." This section of the sonnet sequence seems to suggest that the speaker has nicknamed his penis, "Will." Thus there are at least three wills involved with these sonnets: William Shakespeare, the writer's pseudonym, the will or desire to write or in the "Dark Lady" section to commit adultery, and the instrument through by the speaker would commit the adultery.

The tongue-in-cheek cattiness with which the speaker has glommed onto the term, "Will," seems to suggest that his playfulness has gotten the better of him. He becomes willing to say outrageous things, that even though clever, still would render him a scurrilous cad. Nevertheless, the drama must proceed, and thus it does.

Sonnet 136

If thy soul check thee that I come so near
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckon’d none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores’ account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lov’st me,—for my name is Will.

Reading of Sonnet 136

Commentary

First Quatrain: He is Her Will

If thy soul check thee that I come so near
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.

Addressing the voluptuous mistress again, the speaker admonishes her that if her conscience has any qualms about his desire for her, she should tell that unthinking conscience that he is her "Will." He is her desire for him, and his name is Will. Because he deems to be her possession, he concludes that her conscience will understand that he is permitted to be "admitted there," or in her body.

It is "for love" that he becomes a suitor in order to "fulfil" the desires of the lady—her lust, and his own lustful desires. He is, of course, rationalizing his lust again, but this time focusing more squarely on her own lust than his. He is somewhat an innocent who is merely willing to accompany the lady on her journey to lust fulfillment, he playfully suggests.

Second Quatrain: Will and Desire

Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckon’d none:

The speaker then predicts that he, or "Will," is going to "fulfil the treasure of [her] love," or simply satisfy her desires. Not only satisfy, but "fill it full with wills," referring her to the sperm he is capable of leaving inside her vaginal cavity, after having completed his act, which he calls, "my will one."

The speaker’s penis may be only one, but his sperm contains multitudes. The male penchant for braggadocio has overtaken this speaker in sonnets 135 and 136. His overpowering lust has rendered him a satyric fop. Then he philosophizes that it is always easy to accomplish things for which we think we will receive much pleasure.

Third Quatrain: A Token of Lust

Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores’ account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:

The speaker then concludes that since he has made much sense of his explanation, she should go ahead and allow him to join all the others she has tempted and tasted, even though he will be counted as only one. She should allow him one more bit of wise counsel: even if she will not desire to keep him in her company, she could at least retain one token of him, "a something sweet to [her]."

The Couplet: The Will to Pun

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lov’st me,—for my name is Will.

The token of sweetness, the speaker hopes, will simply be his name: "Make but my name thy love, and love that still, / And then thou lov’st me,—for my name is Will." And if his name were James or Edward, the last remark would remain unremarkable in its literalness. But the speaker he gone out of his way to pun the term, "will," and associate it with his name, "Will," driving home the fact that when he utters that term, he is referring to lust, whether his own or hers.

The De Vere Society

The De Vere Society

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on January 13, 2018:

Wow, that's great, Louise! I have one of those huge tomes of the plays and the sonnets that my mom bought me when I was in my teens. Of course, for practical purposes, I usually rely on the copies one can find on the Net. Still I cherish that book! There is something about real books that remains important for readers and writers.

Always great to hear from you, Louise! Have a blessed day.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on January 12, 2018:

I've got a book on Shakespeare's sonnets which I got cheap in a bookshop. I'm glad I got it because after reading your articles I can re-read them. =)

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